ELLSWORTH — A judge last week denied a motion to revoke the probation of a Southwest Harbor man convicted of possessing child pornography but did approve stricter conditions regarding his sex offender treatment program.
Wayne Buchanan, 63, was in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court Friday for a hearing to revoke his probation and to amend the conditions of his probation.
Buchanan, the former pastor of the Tremont Congregational Church and St. Brendan’s Anglican Mission, pleaded guilty Aug. 25 to one count of possessing sexually explicit material of a minor under the age of 12, a Class C felony level crime. That same day, he was sentenced to a suspended one-year prison term and to two years probation with conditions that include no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 12. He also is required to register with the Maine Sex Offender Registry. Class C crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison.
Buchanan subsequently was arrested Sept. 7 on a probation violation charge for allegedly using his computer to access websites and perform internet searches prohibited by his court-ordered conditions. One of the search terms was “rubbin’ butts,” according to records.
In court last week, Buchanan’s former probation officer, Kurt Dyer, testified he had the former pastor arrested on the probation violation charge after receiving notification from monitoring software that Buchanan’s computer was used to access Facebook accounts, Amazon, YouTube, a drop box and other sites.
Buchanan voluntarily installed software called Covenant Eyes on the computer and gave Dyer access to reports of his online activity. Covenant Eyes, according to the company’s website, is designed to help someone deal with an obsession with pornography by monitoring computer usage and sending an “accountability report” to someone the user designates.
“His probation conditions state he can only access a computer for treatment purposes,” Dyer said, explaining that he could see no therapeutic reasons to visit Facebook and other websites.
Buchanan’s attorney, Richard Hartley, asserted it was Buchanan’s wife, Nola Buchanan, who had used the family’s sole computer, a laptop, for the searches and accused Dyer of not following up on the Southwest Harbor man’s claim of that being the case.
Nola Buchanan also took the witness stand, testifying that she had used the computer on the family’s visit to New Hampshire, visiting the sites along with her daughter. “Rubbin Butts,” she said, is a barbecue restaurant in New Hampshire.
Nola Buchanan said her husband has never had a Facebook page and the drop box is used by him for his therapy.
Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon suggested Nola Buchanan was covering for her husband, saying she faced no legal jeopardy for not telling the truth.
“But you certainly see a legal downside as to why your husband is here today,” Toffolon continued.
Toffolon questioned her claim that Buchanan has never had a Facebook page after she admitted she didn’t know her “husband was collecting child porn.”
The deputy district attorney also challenged her reason for not contacting Buchanan’s probation officer after he was arrested to explain the circumstances of their computer use.
“I never thought I had access to Wayne’s probation officer,” she said.
Toffolon said the state had never accused Buchanan of accessing pornographic sites at the time of his arrest.
“The state is suggesting he was using a computer to look at sites in violation of his probation,” Toffolon said.
Hartley told the court the state had no case.
“There’s just zero evidence that Mr. Buchanan violated his probation,” Hartley said. “Obviously he got into this because he’s sharing a computer.”
Justice Pat Larson denied the motion for revoking Buchanan’s probation but the state was successful in having his conditions amended regarding treatment.
According to Toffolon, Buchanan is under the care of Harl Hargett of Alpha Forensic Psychological Services LLC of Lakewood, Colo.
Hargett’s website states that, along with treatment in his office, he offers therapy by Google hangouts, Skype and telephone. He claims to be certified as a sex addiction therapist, sex therapist and a substance abuse professional.
Buchanan’s current probation officer, Timothy Quinn, told the court that Buchanan’s therapy with Hargett was not what was required by the state for sex offenders. Quinn, a sex offender specialist with the Maine Department of Corrections, took over for Dyer after Buchanan was assessed to be a high risk for reoffending, according to testimony.
Quinn said Buchanan should be undergoing sex offender therapy, not sex addiction therapy. The two types of therapy are quite different, he said. With a state-certified sex offender counselor, a probation officer is able to monitor an offender’s treatment, he said.
Hartley argued that the plea agreement between the district attorney’s office and Buchanan included information on what counseling his client was to receive.
Toffolon pointed out that, at the time, prosecutors were unaware that Buchanan was a high-risk offender.
Larson ruled that Buchanan’s conditions be amended to require that he undergo state-ordered sex offender treatment and that his computers be subject to random search and seizure. Computers used by other family members are subject to random search and seizure upon reasonable, articulable suspicion.
After the court adjourned, Quinn said it was highly unusual if not unprecedented for a sex offender to have court-ordered treatment like Buchanan was undergoing with Hargett.